Hurricane Idalia: Storm close to Category 3 status (live updates)

Idalia became the third hurricane of the 2023 Atlantic season on Tuesday, intensifying near the western tip of Cuba and taking aim at the Florida peninsula as a potentially destructive major storm that could make landfall as soon as Wednesday.

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Idalia follows Don and Franklin this year as tropical storms that have grown into hurricanes.

Idalia moving closer to Big Bend area

Update 11:02 p.m. EDT Aug. 29: Hurricane Idalia remained on the verge of becoming a Category 3 storm on Tuesday. According to the National Hurricane Center’s 11 p.m. EDT advisory, the storm has maximum sustained winds of 110 mph near its center.

The storm continues its northward trek at 18 mph toward the Big Bend region of Florida. At 11 p.m., Idalia’s center was located 125 miles west of Tampa and 185 miles south of Tallahassee.

The hurricane center said that additional strengthening is forecast, and Idalia may still be a hurricane when it plows through the Big Bend area and into southern Georgia. The storm may still have hurricane-strength winds when it reaches the coast of Georgia or the southern coast of South Carolina.

The hurricane center said the rapidly intensifying storm could be a Category 4 hurricane with maximum sustained winds of up to 130 mph when Idalia makes landfall on Wednesday.

-- Bob D’Angelo, Cox Media Group National Content Desk

Idalia nears Category 3 status

Update 10:08 p.m. EDT Aug. 29: The National Hurricane Center began releasing hourly updates on Hurricane Idalia, and the Atlantic season’s third-named hurricane continued to strengthen.

At 10 p.m. EDT, the storm moved closer to Category 3 status, packing 110 mph winds near its center. That is 1 mph shy of becoming a major storm.

Idalia was located 135 miles west-southwest of Tampa and 205 miles south of Tallahassee. The storm has picked up speed and is moving north at 18 mph.

-- Bob D’Angelo, Cox Media Group National Content Desk

Florida National Guard activated

Update 9:19 p.m. EDT Aug. 29: The Florida National Guard has been fully activated, according to a news release from the Department of Defense. More than 3,000 guardsmen have been positioned across the state, Pentagon Deputy Press Secretary Sabrina Singh said during a news conference.

An additional 1,800 guardsmen are en route to Florida, Singh said.

-- Bob D’Angelo, Cox Media Group National Content Desk

Idalia continues to strengthen

Update 8:02 p.m. EDT Aug. 29: Hurricane Idalia continued to strengthen as it barreled up the west coast of Florida toward the Big Bend area of the state. In its 8 p.m. advisory, the National Hurricane Center said that Idalia was a strong Category 2 storm packing 105 mph winds near its center.

At 8 p.m. the center of the hurricane was located 155 miles west-southwest of Tampa and 245 miles south of Tallahassee. The storm was moving north at 16 mph.

A hurricane warning and a storm surge warning remain in effect from the middle of Longboat Key to Indian Pass on Florida’s Panhandle. That warning also includes Tampa Bay, the hurricane center said.

A tropical storm warning remains in effect from Indian Pass to Mexico Beach on the Florida Panhandle, and from Sebastian Inlet in Florida northward to Surf City, North Carolina.

The next full advisory by the hurricane center will be issued at 11 p.m. EDT.

-- Bob D’Angelo, Cox Media Group National Content Desk

Tampa’s MacDill AFB evacuates, secures aircraft

Update 7:02 p.m. EDT Aug. 29: Officials at MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa said that all aircraft at the base have been either evacuated or secured in anticipation of Hurricane Idalia, which was less than 200 miles from the base.

-- Bob D’Angelo, Cox Media Group National Content Desk

DeSantis: Storm ‘definitely’ will hit Big Bend area

Update 6:08 p.m. EDT Aug. 29: During a news conference Tuesday evening, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis provided an update about Hurricane Idalia, which was upgraded to a Category 2 storm with maximum sustained winds of 100 mph.

DeSantis said that the National Hurricane Center’s forecast continues to point toward landfall in the Big Bend area of the state sometime on Wednesday.

“It’s definitely going to hit the Big Bend area,” the governor said from Tallahassee. “There will be a significant, significant impact to that region of Florida.

“The projected path is pretty much locked in,” Jamie Rhome, the acting director of the National Hurricane Center, told CNN.

“This is crunch time right now,” DeSantis said during his news conference. “Everybody hang in there.”

-- Bob D’Angelo, Cox Media Group National Content Desk

Idalia is Category 2 storm

Update 5:02 p.m. EDT Aug. 29: Hurricane Idalia intensified to a Category 2 storm late Tuesday afternoon. In the National Hurricane Center’s 5 p.m. EDT advisory, the center of Idalia was located about 195 miles southwest of Tampa, Florida, and 300 miles south of Tallahassee, the state’s capital.

Maximum sustained winds were clocked at 100 mph, and the storm continues to travel on a northerly path, speeding up slightly at 16 mph. The track of the storm shifted slightly to the west, according to the hurricane center.

A hurricane warning and a storm surge warning remain in effect from the middle of Longboat Key to Indian Pass on Florida’s Panhandle. That warning also includes Tampa Bay, the hurricane center said.

A northward to north-northeastward motion is expected through tonight, with the center of the hurricane expected to reach the Big Bend area of Florida sometime on Wednesday morning.

A tropical storm warning has been issued from Indian Pass to Mexico Beach on the Florida Panhandle, and from Sebastian Inlet in Florida northward to Surf City, North Carolina.

The hurricane center will issue an intermediate advisory at 8 p.m. EDT.

-- Bob D’Angelo, Cox Media Group National Content Desk

South Carolina state of emergency

Update 2:55 p.m. EDT Aug. 29: Gov. Henry McMaster has declared a state of emergency for South Carolina, The New York Times reported. The entire coastline of the state is under a tropical storm warning or watch.

South Carolina State of Emergency by National Content Desk on Scribd

-- Natalie Dreier, Cox Media Group National Content Desk

Wind speeds increase

Update 2:14 p.m. EDT Aug. 29: The National Weather Service said that the storm’s winds in the core have increased to 90 mph. The outer bands are extending 160 miles from the center of the storm.

A storm reaches Category 2 when wind speeds are 96 to 110 mph, CNN reported. It is expected that Hurricane Idalia becomes a Category 3 before it makes landfall but it could go as high as a Category 4, CNN reported.

The storm is about 240 miles from Tampa.

Cuba has discontinued its hurricane and tropical storm warnings, but there are still storm surge warnings, watches and hurricane warnings and watches for Florida.

-- Natalie Dreier, Cox Media Group National Content Desk

Chevron evacuates Gulf of Mexico oil platforms

Update 2:05 p.m. EDT Aug. 29: Oil company Chevron has decided to remove its workers from several oil platforms in the Gulf of Mexico, CNN reported.

Non-essential employees were removed from Blind Faith and Petronus platforms while all personnel were evacuated from the Genesis oil and gas platform that is being decommissioned.

Despite the evacuations, the company said Idalia has not impacted its production levels.

Other oil companies have not appeared to evacuate their workers from the Gulf platforms, CNN reported.

Other employers throughout the state of Florida have also decided to send their employees home.

Naval Air Station Jacksonville said that only mission-essential personnel will have access to the base starting Wednesday. The base will close to non-essential personnel starting at 7 p.m., the base officials said on Facebook.

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers also have canceled its practice that had been scheduled for Wednesday, CNN reported.

-- Natalie Dreier, Cox Media Group National Content Desk

Floridians prepare for Hurricane Idalia

Update 1:45 p.m. EDT Aug. 29: As more calls for evacuations ahead of Hurricane Idalia’s landfall, Floridians are securing their properties to help protect their homes and businesses.

-- Natalie Dreier, Cox Media Group National Content Desk

10- to 15- foot surge predicted

Update 1:35 p.m. EDT Aug. 29: The National Hurricane Center is predicting a 10- to 15-foot storm surge from Hurricane Idalia that will impact the Big Bend region of Florida.

-- Natalie Dreier, Cox Media Group National Content Desk

Georgia state of emergency

Update 1:25 p.m. EDT Aug. 29: Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp has declared a state of emergency for the entire state of Georgia, as it prepares for Hurricane Idalia, WSB reported.

The order will last until 11:59 p.m. Sept. 8.

“We are taking every precaution ahead of Hurricane Idalia’s landfall tomorrow, and I am taking this additional executive action to ensure state assets are ready to respond,” Kemp said, according to WSB. “Georgians in the expected impact area can and should take necessary steps to ensure their safety and that of their families. We are well positioned to respond to whatever Idalia may bring.”

Georgia Hurricane Idalia state of emergency by National Content Desk on Scribd

-- Natalie Dreier, Cox Media Group National Content Desk

Flight changes

Update 12:36 p.m. EDT Aug. 29: Several airlines have announced that they will waive change fees for customers who had been traveling to or through areas that will be impacted by Hurricane Idalia, The New York Times reported.

The areas include Florida, Georgia and South Carolina.

For information concerning upcoming flights:

-- Natalie Dreier, Cox Media Group National Content Desk

National Hurricane Center update

Update 11 a.m. EDT Aug. 29: The National Hurricane Center has issued its 11 a.m. update, saying that Hurricane Idalia is about 120 miles from the Dry Tortugas, and about 275 miles south, southwest of Tampa. The storm has 85 mph sustained wins and it is moving at about 14 mph.

The NHC said that the eye of the hurricane is getting better defined at 30,000 feet, but hasn’t been seen yet on visible satellite imagery.

There is a Storm Surge Warning for Englewood to Indian Pass, Florida. That area includes Tampa Bay. That means “there is a danger of life-threatening inundation, from rising water moving inland from the coastline.” The warning is in effect for the next 36 hours, according to the National Hurricane Center.

The NHC expects that the warm ocean temperatures will fuel the hurricane, making it reach wind speeds of 125 mph by the time it makes landfall on Wednesday, The New York Times reported.

The Tropical Storm Warning has been issued from Altamaha Sound, Georgia, to South Santee River, South Carolina.

There is a Tropical Storm Watch from South Santee River to Surf City, North Carolina.

-- Natalie Dreier, Cox Media Group National Content Desk

North Carolina declares state of emergency

Update 10: 49 a.m. EDT Aug. 29: Gov. Roy Cooper has declared a state of emergency for North Carolina.

“Idalia is expected to bring several hazards to North Carolina on Wednesday and Thursday, with the risk of flooding from heavy rain particularly in Southeast North Carolina,” he said in a news release.

The state’s Emergency Management Director, Will Ray, said that they are staging resources to respond to potential issues caused by Idalia, CNN reported.

-- Natalie Dreier, Cox Media Group National Content Desk

‘Time is running out’

Update 10:18 a.m. EDT Aug. 29: The director of the National Weather Service has a stark reminder for people in the path of Idalia.

Ken Graham posted on X, formerly known as Twitter, that “Time is running out to prepare for IDA.:

Amtrak has canceled or shortened train routes before Idalia makes landfall. As of Tuesday morning, there have been 12 routes on the East Coast that have been canceled. They include the Auto Train, Silver Star and Silver Meteor, CNN reported. The Palmetto Route which normally goes from New York to Savannah, Georgia, will stop in Washington, D.C. on Tuesday and Wednesday.

-- Natalie Dreier, Cox Media Group National Content Desk

‘Weather is going to get pretty bad’

Update 9:57 a.m. EDT Aug. 29: The police chief of St. Petersburg, Florida, had a warning for residents there, telling CNN, that between 9 p.m. Tuesday and 9 a.m. Wednesday, “the weather is going to get pretty bad.”

He directed people who live in Zone A to gather belongings, family and pets and move away from the danger. But if people decide not to evacuate, then shelter in place and that help will be on the way once the weather dies down.

“The people that decide not to evacuate, they have to remember to shelter in place. You are going to be on your own until the weather dies down and then we will be able to come back out and rescue you,” Police Chief Anthony Holloway said, according to CNN.

The Florida Department of Transportation and Florida’s Turnpike Enterprise have suspended tolls along several highways through Sept. 5 at noon, WFTV reported.

-- Natalie Dreier, Cox Media Group National Content Desk

Outer bands start to be felt west of the Florida Keys

Update 9 a.m. EDT Aug. 29: The National Weather Service said that the outer bands of the hurricane are being felt in the waters west of the Florida Keys with tropical-storm-force winds, heavy rain and lightning moving across Rebecca Shoal, The New York Times reported.

Today also marks a day in weather history, when Hurricane Katrina made landfall southeast of New Orleans on Aug. 29, 2005, the Times reported. Then 16 years after Katrina, Hurricane Ida also made landfall at Port Fourchon, Louisiana.

-- Natalie Dreier, Cox Media Group National Content Desk

80 MPH winds

Update 8:05 a.m. EDT Aug. 29: The National Hurricane Center says Idalia now has sustained winds of 80 mph as it moves into the Gulf of Mexico with an expected track to the north and then north-northeast.

The central pressure of the storm has dropped to 977mb, meaning the storm is strengthening and becoming better organized.

According to the NHC, “There is a danger of life-threatening storm surge inundation along portions of the Florida Gulf Coast where a Storm Surge Warning is in effect, including Tampa Bay and the Big Bend region of Florida. Inundation of 8 to 12 feet above ground level is expected somewhere between the Chassahowitzka River and the Aucilla River. Residents in these areas should follow any advice given by local officials.”

-- Debbie Lord, Cox Media Group National Content Desk

“To intensify into an extremely dangerous major hurricane”

Update 7:25 a.m. EDT Aug. 29: The National Hurricane Center is warning that Idalia is “to intensify into an extremely dangerous major hurricane” before it makes landfall. The storm’s projected landfall is along the west coast in the Big Bend region of Florida on Wednesday.

Before it makes landfall, Idalia may produce tornadoes on Tuesday, CNN reported.

Tampa International Airport closed just after midnight on Tuesday morning and will remain closed until it can assess damage once the storm passes, possibly as early as Thursday. All air traffic was to stop by 7 a.m. Tuesday morning. Closing before the storm hits will allow crews to secure equipment such as jet bridges and remaining aircraft before Idalia impacts the region, officials said in a statement on the airport’s website.

The St. Pete-Clearwater International Airport Terminal will close on Tuesday afternoon.

Orlando International Airport remains open, with its last update posted on X, formerly known as Twitter, on Monday afternoon.

-- Natalie Dreier, Cox Media Group National Content Desk

Original report: According to the National Hurricane Center’s 5 a.m. EDT advisory, the center of Idalia was located 370 miles south-southwest of Tampa. Maximum sustained winds at the storm’s center were at 75 mph, and the storm was moving north at 14 mph.

A hurricane warning was in effect for the middle of Longboat Key northward to Indian Pass, including Tampa Bay.

Idalia was entering the warm waters of the southeastern Gulf of Mexico, and forecasters believe the storm could energize into a powerful storm that could threaten a swath of Florida from the Big Bend region to the Tampa Bay metropolitan area.

According to the National Hurricane Center, Idalia was “expected to become a major hurricane” over the eastern Gulf of Mexico.

In addition to the hurricane’s winds, storm surge is a major concern. The Big Bend area, particularly near Cedar Key, could see up to 12 feet of storm surge, the Miami Herald reported. The Tampa Bay area could see a storm surge of between 4 to 7 feet, according to the newspaper.

By Monday night, much of the Gulf Coast was under hurricane and storm surge warnings, the Tampa Bay Times reported. Tolls on roads along Florida’s west coast were suspended as of 4 a.m. on Tuesday, according to the newspaper.

The last time the Tampa Bay area took a direct hit from a hurricane was on Oct. 25, 1921, when a storm with maximum sustained winds estimated at 120 mph made landfall near Tarpon Springs.

If Idalia makes landfall in the Big Bend area as a major storm, it would be only the second Category 3 or stronger hurricane to do so in the past 170 years, the Tallahassee Democrat reported.

Several universities across the state, including the University of South Florida, the University of Tampa and Saint Leo University, canceled classes for Tuesday and Wednesday, the Times reported. Students at Eckerd College, located near the waterfront in St. Petersburg, were ordered to evacuate dormitories, according to the newspaper.

The University of Florida and Florida State University will also be closed on Tuesday.

Gov. Ron DeSantis, who left his presidential campaigning to return to the Sunshine State, spoke at the Pinellas County Emergency Operations Center and warned residents to prepare, the Times reported.

“This is going to be a powerful hurricane, and this is absolutely going to impact the state of Florida in many, many ways,” DeSantis said.

“If you are anywhere north of Tampa Bay to Apalachicola you will be impacted,” Kevin Guthrie, the director of Florida’s division of emergency management, said during a news conference on Monday.

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